Monthly Archives: December 2012
16 Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)
18 All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces; and that same glory, coming from the Lord, who is the Spirit, transforms us into his likeness in an ever greater degree of glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (TEV)
Nearly fifteen years ago, I lay on a table in a hospital, as an angiogram was being done by my cardiologist. Above the table were a number of television monitors, all black and white, and the showed the progress of the camera as it was inserted into my thigh, and was run my leg into my heart. A bit disconcerting — and yet fascinating.
What was even mroe fascinating was the focus of Dr. Silver. His focus as he guided the devise was not on me, but on the cameras, his attention completed devoted and dedicated to task at hand, but yet, not on the work of his hands. It was on the monitors- as they showed him where he was going – and what he needed to see. It was a bit disconcerting – there he was – moving his hands, working on me.., but almost unaware that I was there.
As I contemplate the end of a very difficult year of ministry, (difficult because of a high level of trauma for the people in my congregation and those around me) and as I am praying this morning, and coming across these verses, I think our “success” as a congregation, and our focus has been much like my cardiologist Stephen’s. For indeed, this small church has grown very strong in its faith.. and people have persevered through things.. that are beyond challenging. For while we are working on things below, while we are struggling with the situations down here, the work requires our focus somewhere else – our focus is to be on Jesus Christ, on the love of God the Father, listening as they reveal the height and width, the depth and breadth of their love for us shown through Christ.
As we interact, as we dance in that love, as God leads us through life, the essential work we do requires that focus, even though our… mind tells us to look at what we are doing, to look at where our hands are moving. There is our challenge, to be in communication with God – to have our focal point on Him.
It is like the words of a priest…written in a book called, “The Forge”
“To think of Christ’s Death means to be invited to face up to our everyday tasks with complete sincerity, and to take the faith that we profess seriously. It has to be an opportunity to go deeper into the depths of God’s Love, so as to be able to show that Love to men with our words and deeds.” (1)
So look deep – deeply focus on the love of God – revealed to you – for you in Christ Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him as you endure each day… for it is then, that you do you best work, even though it seems you are not…focused on what you are doing.
May your next year be filled with His love, His mercy and many blessings. AMEN †
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2141-2144). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,800 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.
Let His Message Fill Your Lives!
† In Jesus Name †
My friends in Christ, may your lives be filled with the richness of Christ’s message – that He in love has chosen you to be the Holy People He loves!
What does this mean?
It is referred to as the “Lutheran Question”. Like our theology, it predates Luther and the reformation that God created – not just in our churches, but in Christianity. It goes back to a Greek Philosopher, named Socrates – a man who, like Luther, and like St Paul, the author of Colossians, irritated more than a few people.
His way of phrasing it was a bit different. He said that the unexamined life is not worth living. He would love the way Luther phrased it, as he taught young people and pastors, using the phrase, “What does this mean?”
We need to ask that question about our faith – what and why we trust in God – and we need to hear the answer – really hear and absorb it. The more I do, the deeper that trust becomes, the more the words of the songs and hymns we sing mean, for the more we desire to worship God. This is because the more we ask, “What does this mean”, the more we understand how great it is, that God works in our life.
This time of year then, as we gather to celebrate Christ’s birth, is as good a time as any to start asking that question again.
What does it mean that we trust in God, what does it mean that we hear Jesus was incarnate – that He was born into the world and that we are reborn – in Him?
Paul’s epistle this week answers the question, what does this mean? (looking at the manger …
What does it mean that Christ was born of Mary, that He was incarnate?
What does it mean… for us?
What does the incarnation mean…for you?
You’ve been chosen! GULP but that’s a good thing!
Practically, we find the answer to the “what does the incarnation, what does Christ’s birth mean” in our epistle reading this morning. Specifically there in verse 12.
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves,
There it is – because Christ came into the world, because He was born of the Virgin Mary, because He humbled Himself and left heaven to be here, to dwell among us we have been chosen to be His people. The people He loves.
Get this – His holy people.
We’ll get to what that means in a moment, but I want you to really hear this,
God chose you to be the holy people he loves,
I don’t think you can hear it enough times!
God chose you to be the holy people he loves,
The entire reason for the incarnation boils down to that, the reason He came – was to reveal to us His decision to make us His holy people – whom He loves!
That answer does raise yet again the question – What does this mean that He chose us to be the holy people He loves? What difference does it make? What effect does it have on your lives?
What Effect does being chosen mean in in your life
It changes your behavior – not who you are!
It’s the difference between getting dressed after your shower in the morning, or just walking outside without dressing!
That’s not my idea – that’s Paul’s!
Hear all of the sentence that begins in verse 12,
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
If you go outside without getting dressed appropriately, you are not ready to face the world- and they are definitely not ready to face you!
This is as true spiritually as it is physically – indeed I believe even more so. The things that describe how someone lives – who has been clothed with Christ, who has put on Christ, are not something we should dismiss as being legalistic, or to difficult, but it is indeed the way we are to live; for we live in Christ. The very change is generated in us in our baptism, as we are granted repentance, as we are given the Holy Spirit.
Without these things – without tenderhearted mercy, without kindness, without humility and gentleness and patience – we find ourselves out there naked – raw – our emotions not governed, our reactions neither modest nor controlled. We become merciless – and cannot find the strength to love – and we find ourselves excluding others and isolating ourselves, rather than being bound together in perfect harmony.
Which is why, in nearly every letter to a church – Paul talks of Christ first – and then of what it means for us to be in Christ – how we live, as members of His body, as living sacrifices – standing firm and reflecting His love to the world.
In this case, the relationships we have are well documented and worked through.
I find it interesting – and we will talk in Bible Study – about the burden being, not on the sinner, but on the one sinned against whom the sin was committed. The key becomes our acting Christlike, and putting the best construction on things, on making allowances as the passage talks of, of forgiving.
The more then we act like Christ – and do not allow the relationship to be broken, the more we find ourselves living together – even bound together in Christ’s peace, in the completeness that comes in Him. For it takes much more for a relationship to break – when both parties are forgiving and when we make allowance for each other’s faults.
How can This Be?
I have to admit – this sounds easier than it is, and that is why we need to hear it so often! To be reminded of how God has designed us to live – how we are to be imitators of Christ. To get back from where we started.
That is where we are challenged; we think these attitudes, even if we know better, originates by our work, by our will. Sometimes we get a defeatist attitude because, it isn’t hard to always be patient with each other, and often we do forget that we are dressed in these things, already!
I would so prefer it to read – you must be clothed – or be clothed, the verb there is imperative, but it is not active – it is middle/passive in voice – the work of being clothed – of putting on Christ is more than ours – and it has already been done.
In verse 12 it says that we have been chosen by God, and that we are chosen to be the holy people He loves. That choice has already been made, the work to present us holy, that has already begun. The peace of Christ, the peace that He generates… that will rule our lives that provides the harmony that too is His responsibility that is a blessing as well of our baptism!
Where our focus begins and ends – what makes living in Christ’s peace, what gives us the strength to love, to be patient and kind, is not our will, but what Paul urges us to do in verse 16.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.
There is our key to dwelling in peace, to loving in such a way we are bound together.
It is found as we hear the word of God, as the Holy Spirit uses it, as on the day of Pentecost, to do heart surgery on us, to bring us to life, as Ezekiel says to remove our heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.
A slightly different take- but the same thing as being clothed with Christ – for all those attributes we are to show – are His. As we are transformed into His image – we take on those characteristics and we begin, whether we realize it or not, to live in them. To dwell in Christ, to cherish the words in our Bibles, to discuss it and deeply drink of its wisdom, and even more – the message of God’s love for you, His holy people – that is how we grow in love.
The more we spend in His word, and in meditation and prayer based upon it, the more we naturally resort to verse 16 – the rejoicing and praising and thanking God as we sing to Him. As we adore Him, for we realize the depth of His love for us, a love that He demonstrated in choosing us, in cleansing us, in filling us with His word, and His peace.
12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)
When I speak to you of good example, I mean to tell you, too, that you have to understand and excuse, that you have to fill the world with peace and love.(2)
It is a phase we all go through, a defensive mechanism that we revert to in moments where we’ve been “caught” in the act. In a five year old, it can be a little cute and hilarious. In a 30 year old, or even a 50 or 70 year old – not so much. I am talking about making up and giving excuses. The ways in which we try to bend the perception of others, in regards to our actions (and their perceptions are often accurate) to get them to put the best construction, the best reasoning on our actions. We may say things without thinking, we may do something that was wrong, whether we know it or not at the time.
And a five year old can make up some of the silliest excuses you’ve ever heard! Again – kinda cute, a interesting phase.
But what if the best…way of dealing with excuses was not to be found in the one making them, but in the one to whom they are made?
If I read Paul’s words above, and they were practiced, especially the ones underlined, we see a relationship in which a person wouldn’t have to give you excuses – there would be no need! If we trusted each other, to forgive, to make allowance for our mistakes, why would we bother? If we could comprehend the love, the charity (see the last two blogs for charity/love) would we be so quick to find excuses? If we put the best construction, saw the best in what each other did – as Luther taught, would we need to create incredible stories – and get defensive? If we sought to understand and excuse, to fill the world with love and peace… would others need to blame others?
As I think about the community of faith, and the sanctuary it should be, about how we should be able to strengthen each other, build up each other, help each other overcome temptation, this is one of the greatest ways. To mutually work to create an environment where mercy and love are demonstrated, are encouraged, where peace reigns, because we learn not to be defensive, because we do not have to be! What a wondrous environment we could create! We would be the church God intended, a church were people ran for absolution, for forgiveness and would find assurance of it. Accountability wouldn’t be a law driven concept, but one that we rejoiced in, knowing those asking us questions were actually interested in helping us thrive.
It starts simply – not with trying to find excuses for our actions, but excusing and forgiving the actions of others….knowing that is exactly what Christ did!
Even simple – this won’t be easy…. so let us cry for God’s mercy!
And know and be assured – and assure each other… He has listened and is merciful!
(1) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.
(2)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2103-2104). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:
“Loving souls for God’s sake will make us love everyone: understanding, excusing, forgiving… We should have a love that can cover the multitude of failings contrived by human wretchedness. We have to have a wonderful charity, veritatem facientes in caritate, defending the truth, without hurting anyone.” (1)
As I hear people talk about the lack of need in their spiritual life for “church”, I grieve for them, and for the church. It is a loss for both, for we were not meant to have an “individual” relationship with God – and more than the Trinity has relationship apart from the entire Trinity. We are meant to abide in Christ as a family, a body, a group called out together. The people of God, since Adam and Eve were meant to be in community, as they walked through the Sinai, as the encamped around the tabernacle, as they rejoiced at the Temple – offering sacrifices and celebrating the putting off of their sin – together.
Yesterday I wrote about restoring the word “charity” as it helps us focus the nature of the love (which is a synonym of charity when its the highest form of love) and today’s comment from my devotions likewise uses the word. (Surprise!) As I noted then – charity is not about giving our cast-offs – our no-longer used, or giving from our abundance – it is just the opposite – its giving from our need – to care for those we are called to love. (not just those we decide to love – there is a big difference) The relationship between the people of God is supposed to amaze others – and extend out from the church… to bring the world into it.
The church then – as a body is the tool which God uses to demonstrate how to love in such a complete, even sacrificial way. For indeed, He demonstrates such charity/love towards us, as He graciously cleanses us, heals our souls (and yes sometimes our bodies) as He marks us as His children, as He gives us new life, (see Titus 3).
He does call us to then love others, even as He loves us… that’s charity – and the church is a great training ground. For some of us are harder to love, some are indeed great challenges. And there are a multitude of failings, which need to be corrected with discipline, even as we do it in love. This isn’t easy – and yet – as we learn to do it in safety, with the other brothers and sisters in Christ, we find ourselves showing such love/charity to those in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our very lives. Let me put it bluntly – the church isn’t a place where every one is easy to love – because we are a bunch of hypocrites and sinners. But then – it is the ability to love even these, that God demonstrated in Christ, and desires us to show as well. God had St. John explain it this way…..
16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17 Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18 There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19 We love because God first loved us. 20 If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21 The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:16-21 (TEV)
The people at your church such as you struggle to love them? Rejoice – you have some wondrous opportunities to depend on God, and to see Him work through you ahead!
ANd remember – you can always cry out….
Lord Have Mercy!
Be assured that He does!
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2099-2102). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotioal thought of the day….
I have a few friends who talk about the superiority of the translation of the King James Version…As an pastor – I disagree for a number of reasons, one of which is that the words used in the last revision, are no longer used, or are used in a way completely foreign to our use today. We cannot understand them without a dictionary nearby – and worse – we don’t always know that the word has changed. Such results often in poor theology.
Occasionally though, I wish we could reclaim a word here and there – because the English word is loaded used instead has far too many meanings as well – such as the word “love” (in Greek there are four words that translate into the word – ranging from eros ( sexual), to agape – the word for love, which is the word used when we describe God with the phrase – God is love. ( the funny thing is the KJV uses love most of the time for agape. )
In 1 Cor 13, the famous love chapter, the KJV uses a different word for love – here is the passage – and the word I wish we could restore a meaning to…
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
This word, charity, too is often misunderstood – indeed we have changed it drastically over the years – and we think of “a” charity – the recipient of donations, which does something worthwhile with them to help those less fortunate. We think about it almost condescendingly – that they are the place where we deposit our excess, our leftovers, our hand-me-downs. It is the place that ministers to the “least of these…” (yet do we remember the kingdom parable of the sheep and the goats, and remember who is the least of these?”
Charity is far more than that – and yes – it is loving someone beyond what they deserve – but a love that has a specific character – one of action, or of devotion, one that seeks not to give the remnants, not just what is needed desperately, but what is…the best – that which would complete the person, no matter the cost. In order to do this – it requires a Christlike, godly character, one willing to sacrifice what is best for the other. It is far from condecension, far from simply pity, it is the depth of a relationship – that is what agape/charity is.
It is what we are called to – as we use who God has crafted us to be (see chapter 12) to serve/minister (same word in Greek) those around us. I love how St Josemarie Escriva describes it:
557 Saint Paul has given us a wonderful recipe for charity: alter alterius onera portate et sic adimplebitis legem Christi – bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ. Is this what happens in your life? 558 Jesus Our Lord loved men so much that he became incarnate, took to himself our nature, and lived in daily contact with the poor and the rich, with the just and with sinners, with young and old, with Gentiles and Jews. He spoke constantly to everyone: to those who showed good will towards him, and to those who were only looking for a way to twist his words and condemn him. You should try to act as Our Lord did. (1)
The second comment is included to help define the Lord’s charity/love towards us, and the way we should imitate him – and have charity towards those that twist our love and condemn us as well.
So in these last days of the year – as charities are calling asking you to give…may it become a reminder to truly depend on Jesus, truly look to Him, truly reflect His glory and become truly one who shows charity – by going beyond, by loving without measure, by being like Christ
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2091-2099). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We Beheld His Glory
† In Jesus Name †
May we testify with the apostles, that we have seen His glory, glory as the only begotten of the Father!
He Came!…. He came…
I love the 14th verse of our gospel reading this morning. It doesn’t matter the translation,
John 1:14 (KJV) 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (CEV) 14 The Word became a human being and lived here with us. We saw his true glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. From him all the kindness and all the truth of God have come down to us.
John 1:14 (YLT) 14 And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (NLT) 14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
John 1:14 (NJB) 14 The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
There are days… when I wish I could have been there, at the manger, as He taught the sermon on the mount, at the transfiguration, in the upper room for the last supper. How much stronger would my faith be?
Or is the answer, that our Lord still lives among us, that we still see His glory, that we still see His grace, and truth?
The Gift Refused..
Even and those words, those incredible words testifying of the Incarnation thrill my soul, so to I am… saddened, even grieving, over those who are described in verse 11. Can you imagine knowing of God’s love, of promises, diligently studying scripture, to know all the signs to look for, things that must be fulfilled prior to the long awaited Deliverer’s arrival….
as He taps you on the shoulder, you brushing it away, telling the Lord not to bother you? Such was the reaction of the people while Jesus walked the earth, and to be honest, many people we know today. It is perhaps the most challenging thing – to realize that we don’t always remember He is here… that His glory, His grace and truth is here… now… even as He has gathered us here this morning.
Even as He walks through this week with us, His Spirit dwelling with us.
And if it is sad that we occasionally forget He dwells, in all His glory with us..
How far more grieving should we be that there are others… that walk without Him at all?
The Gift Received…
Even as I grieve over the moments where we forget His presence, those times we fall into sin, there is something else to consider – verse 12 and 13
John 1:12-13 (NLT) 12 But to all who believed (trusted) him and accepted (welcomed/received) him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
In our baptism – we received the gift of the Holy Spirit – we were united with Christ, we received God, that is when we were born again – here Paul’s words to Titus,
Titus 3:4-7 (TEV4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior was revealed, 5 he saved us. It was not because of any good deeds that we ourselves had done, but because of his own mercy that he saved us, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us new birth and new life by washing us. 6 God poured out the Holy Spirit abundantly on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that by his grace we might be put right with God and come into possession of the eternal life we hope for.
This is the gift given to us this Christmas, no other gift – can be compared to the gift of His Son, the Word, our Redeemer and Lord, All of our lives, all of History changed when God made His promise true, when the Word of God, the One through all that was created was created… came into the world, came into our world… and changed everything…
May we indeed adore Him, the One who became flesh and dwelt among us, and causes us to dwell with Him, in His glory and truth….
God’s Zeal did… this.
† In Jesus Name †
As we look at the life of Jesus, may we realize the manger is just the beginning of the story, as is the tomb, and even out baptism… and that God’s zeal uses that to accomplish something…beyond our belief
Mary Did you Know Video?
The Manger, the Cross, the Tomb, and the Throne…
All this accomplished because of God’s zeal
The lighting in the sanctuary this evening, allows for the beginning of the sermon to be a video of the life of Jesus, accompanied by a song most of us have heard before. (start video)
The reason is showed the video is simple – the manger – and the incredibly peaceful looking scene in most nativity scenes can only be understood as we contemplate the ministry of Christ – what occurs in it, the miracles, the teachings, the Cross, the Tomb, the encounter with Paul, and especially the throne.
I love in our Old Testament reading tonight, the use of the word “zeal”. Not normally a word we think of, when we think of God our Father, and the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It seems odd to use such a passionate, emotional word to describe the Creator of the Heavens and Earth, the Creator of life, the Sustainer of His people. But zeal is the word used.
Zeal – the thing we think of when we think of football fans, or the excitement of a couple as they look forward to their wedding – zeal. Words like enthusiasm, passion, ardor and fanaticism are synonyms. It is that all out- gung ho approach to getting what is desired….
And it is God’s zeal that accomplishes what we celebrate tonight.
Immanuel! God with us! With us, hereto live, to teach, to comfort, to heal, to die, rise, and reign! To create for Himself a people – holy and righteous.
He’s come to take and transform us, for we have too long lived in the darkness, it is time to live in the glorious light of His presence.
It is hard to imagine God that emotionally tied to us – that desirous of our company – so willing to give His son… that we would know and love and be with Him… yet His zeal is for that very thing – and Isaiah, writing hundreds of years – says that the zeal of the Lord of hosts gets this done!
The Light which shatters darkness
His reign and peace
His justice and righteousness
I have long counted Isaiah and Hebrews as my two favorite books in the Bible – because of the clarity of their presentation of the work of Jesus, the Lord who was chosen to be the child that Isaiah says was given to us. And the passage tonight – tells us of the incredible work that He came to accomplish.
We live in a world that seems dark. Darkened by sin, and darkened by the vary evil of mankind. By our thoughts, and the words we say, and even the deeds we do. I was talking to Bob recently, and we discussed that those deeds, once hidden, once never discussed, are now talked about freely, indeed we find people who take great joy, not just in doing evil – St Paul describes the people of his day, and indeed ours, this way….
28 Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they should not do. 29 They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip 30 and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no conscience; they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or pity for others. 32 They know that God’s law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but they even approve of others who do them. Romans 1:28-32 (TEV)
Living in a world like this is difficult – where evil seems to reign. Even more darkened by things we cannot understand – the challenges of living life in a world were disease and disorders change our very lives – the very people we are.
But into this kind of life comes a baby, a little boy, that has promised to be a light unto the world.
Look at the things Isaiah promises He will bring – the wonderful comfort of God, His presence which will sustain us and cause us to be victorious over sin, and satan, and even.. death. He is promised to be our everlasting Father, the one who cares and protects and teaches us!
Incredibly – He will be our peace, the Lord, the Prince who establishes peace and keeps us in it!
The zeal of God – His desire to have you in His life, in His glory, makes this happen. It was planned before the foundation of the earth was laid, and it was revealed to us in scripture – even as it is today, and it was revealed in the flesh, as Mary and Joseph looked down upon Him and rejoiced!
And yes – it went through His life, as people were freed from demons and illnesses, the blind saw, the crippled walked and the dead – both physical and spiritual were given life! The plan was completed at the cross – and the grace and ascension bring its goal to fruition – even as we see it revealed in Pentecost – and in our lives.
That’s what this night is about – that is why we desired His advent – His coming into the world.. even as we desire that He comes again, to reveal the completeness of His glory to us, even as we are to abide in it for eternity, even as we do now, though we cannot see it all….
For we will dwell with Him, our Father, our Lord, our Counselor… our God forever.
For the zeal of the Lord HAS accomplished this. AMEN?
His Love Made Perfect….in US?
1 John 4:7-16
As we look into the manger – may we realize this perfect example of God’s love is here…to show us the mercy that will cause us His love to be made perfect in us.
The Shepherd’s View….
Of all the characters that gather around the Christ child, for some reason I feel the strongest connection to the shepherds, the ones who come in from the fields. I imagine myself there, looking down into the manger in amazement, looking down on a little baby. I think about trying to process what we had seen out in the field, the amazing words we had heard.
Can you imagine – these the least of those, the one’s whose “job” didn’t let them go home at night – if they even had a home, they were the ones who were brought to be the first witnesses of the birth of the Messiah.
Yet, looking down at the Baby… I can imagine their hearts pounding, the sacredness of the harsh manger overwhelming… and a question raising up inside…
Why me… why did God choose me to bear witness to this – and indeed I will – but why me?
Who us? Love made perfect in us
As I read the passage we heard a few moments ago from 1 John, the same question arises…especially as I hear these words in my mind,
God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. 1 John 4:12 (TEV)
Me? Really? If there is a reason left in my mind as to God’s wisdom, it in choosing me. And I suspect, I am not the only one who is challenged in that way. Sunday, as Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, the same kind of response – why are you here, the mother of my Lord – to visit me? That attitude runs through scripture – Moses, Gideon, King David, so many others…
God you are going to make your love perfect… in me?
I so want to add on the word, “Really.” Do you know how broken, challenged, imperfect and sinful I am? And you are going to perfect you love… in me?
What do we think is love?
It is God sending Christ for us.
Knowing this – causes us to love each other
It doesn’t start with us – but with him
I think the answer comes to the “why me”, “really, me” questions, when we begin to hear what love really is. When we really understand why we toss a little manger and put a doll in it, to remember Christmas. Again – listen to St john’s epistle…
9 And God showed his love for us by sending his only Son into the world, so that we might have life through him. 10 This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.1 John 4:9-10 (TEV)
Love is more than just a simple emotion – it is adoration and devotion in action. Not just thoughts – but that which compels us, that which drives us to act in the best interest of the one whom we love.
And it isn’t that we have loved God… it is that He loved us, proving it here.. (point to the manger) and here (Point to cross), enveloping us in His love as He baptized us into Christ, cleansing us from sin, as we feed on His Body and blood at the altar, as we are comforted by His presence, abiding in us – making us into the image of His son..
It is abiding in this love, living in it, reveling in it – letting it transform us, that brings us to the point where we can love Him – and even as that love resounds from us to Him, it envelopes those around us.
I used to think it a challenge to love those around us – something we have to exert all our energy, strain to do – that it was a challenge to love people who wronged me, or irritated me, or those wouldn’t forgive me for irritating them….
John is crying out to us, it isn’t about our straining to exert the effort to love. That kind of love comes – as we spend time in God’s presence, living and resting in His love, in realizing and meditating on and reveling in the love that He showed us; as His Son was born and died, and ascended… and the Spirit gathers us, and grants us faith and repentance.
That kind of love doesn’t have to be forced out – it grows and we find ourselves unable to keep it in.
Assured – and so we declare this to others….because we trust in the love God has for us!
That is the love that occurs because God came into the world – and cleanses us from sin. It is life changing, but such a challenge because we struggle to believe it, it is a challenge to know it is ours…
Here of it some more,
13 We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 16 And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 1 John 4:13-16 (TEV)
My friends, this is the love that saves the world, this is the love that takes this messed up, upside down, good is evil and bad is good and changes it, transforms it, makes it a place of peace.
This love is God’s love for you, it is the love He desires you to find life and rest in, it is the love that changes everything….
It is the love, that if we are honest, we are uncomfortable with, For we struggle to see ourselves there, and yet – that is the very… attitude that leads to worship – for God sees us and knows us and chooses to pour out that love on us..
So my friends – welcome God’s work in your life, welcome His love, and know, that yet – you really….
Devotional thought of the day….
“What Child is This?” has been my favorite Christman song since I can remember. I remember sitting in our living room – a mere 6 or 7, and Brother Michael teaching me to play it on the guitar, then accompanying him at the prayer meeting that was held in our home.
Like many Christmas Hymns, it pleads with us, to come to Him, to bring to Him, to worship Him… and so we should.
Yet Christmas isn’t about our coming to Him, it is about His coming to us.
It isn’t even about what we bring to Him, it is about redemption, and grace, and peace – the gifts He brings to us.
Yes we respond, yes I would love our church filled with people gifting back – giving Jesus what He has given them – their lives.
But it is first, and always… about what He brings……
And maybe, as the world recognizes that… and they need to…more and more voices will be lifted in praise… and singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo…..
For indeed we need to sing His praises…and enter into His glory…